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Midwest Birria
Deep in the American Midwest, Tom Gibbs hosts a down-home Mexican barbeque and jarocho jam session.

Midwest Birria
Naco, goat, Calixto with axe, & Manuel

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By Tom Gibbs
Posted Saturday, August 2, 2003

Well OK, last Saturday Calixto, Naco, and Manuel pull up in the driveway in Romeo's pickup with a topper on back and Calixto says, "Disculpeme, Tom, no quiero molestarte." But…….as Naco leads on in Spanish (none of them speak English) "tenemos un chivo"

Well, sure enough there was the goat standing  in the back of the pickup, luckily covered by the topper so my neighbors didn't notice. It seemed a pretty good buy at $60.

Lo que pasa es que…. Calixto and I had enjoyed some birria de borrego at a fiesta after the baptism of Maria Fernandez. Little Maria Fe's grandparents and two aunts had come up from Jalisco for a few weeks to be at the baptism and we had it all - birria de borrego, frijoles y arroz (when's the last time you didn't get that?), and a stupendous tres leches cake (Juan's cousin, the baker from Reynoso, is back living in the area again).

Juan was a baker, too, and his cakes usually have peach slices between the layers; but his cousin used bananas and strawberry jam between them. And of course, all the guests got laborious and sentimental requedos. Requedos are a whole other topic which need to be dealt with separately under the magnifying light of folk art, potlatch and aesthetics. Anyway the birria awakened a long slumbering memory in Calixto's lexicon of sabores. Back at the apartment I'm sure there was a snowballing effect as he described the comida to Naco and Manuel -- they were not at the fiesta.

So anyway, as the guys came up here without any tools, so I rounded up a rope, two utility knives, and an axe. The first rope was old and broke twice (which bought the goat more time and freedom). After I found a better rope I set to sharpening the tools while the guys got the goat up in position. Things went more smoothly during the next 45 minutes. Thus it was time to talk chilis……the guajillos, anchos and everything else were available at the tienda here, but cascabels - no hay. Marta C. says we could substitute chili de arbol, Calixto says it's a different sabor, and though I don't really know how much difference it would make, I've got chili de arbol in the pantry.

During it all Manuel and I talked about me going to see his family in a pueblo outside Oaxaca City when I am in Oaxaca. As Calixto and all his family are albaniles (home builders) in central Mexico I've been bouncing adobe home construction ideas and methods off him for some time now. I did the same with his brother, Florencio, before he returned to Mexico. So we also all talked land costs and construction costs - that is a subject that every immigrant is as interested in as I am. It seems most every one of them is building, did build, or will build a house back home for themselves or their parents. (There is an epic hidden in there somewhere.)

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